Posted by: Martin | October 16, 2011

Buying land in Abidjan

Still in all-in mode

I’m still in all-in mode. Last time in Ivory Coast (two weeks ago) I bought a new plot in Cocody next to the one previously purchased.  It’s in an empty area surrounded by urban sprawl.  It works like this, that the village that originally held the rights to the land has decided to give up those rights and sell most of it using a contractor. I’m dealing with a subcontractor that sells plots in a part of the area and who is quite a character.  He is really an army guy but since he is of dioula ethnicity he was sidestepped during the Gbagbo years, so he went into other businesses including land deals with much optimism but maybe less expertise.

On his desk he has a computer monitor, but it’s not connected to anything – no cables at all. Before I noticed that the monitor was for show (isomorphic mimicry I guess), I naively asked if I could use the internet. Oh well. He is also pointing out that he’ll use the profits he makes on land deals to get a third wife. Now polygamy is not uncommon in the Ivory Coast, but it’s a bit old school. It goes from being the norm among older generations in the countryside to less usual among younger people in Abidjan.

The biggest scare in the buying land process came when it became clear that the plot layout and numbering plan had changed and it was unclear where my purchased plot was on the new plan.   The subcontractor set a meeting for 7am to sort it out, but turned up at 9:30am. Waiting, the notary that works with me and I joked that we always get a new surprise every time we meet the subcontractor.

Anyhow, we went to the area in question and found a well-suited plot. The subcontractor said it was reserved and suggested other plots. I and the surveyor walked around one of those other plots to estimate their size and found them to be too small. Confronted with this the subcontractor said the well-suited plot was actually reserved for himself but that I could have it.

At the end I bought the plot next to it as well. The thing is, the purchase process is a bit messy, but by keeping veryfying things, using a notary, a surveyor and a law firm to check out the plots and the paperwork, I feel I’ve done what I can to reduce the risk of getting ripped off or getting in any sort of legal issues.

No snags we hope

And if there are no snags with the land purchases, it looks quite like a slam dunk as it looks highly likely that land values will increase – and that’s without counting on expected demographic and economic growth.  The whole area is planned and set to become quite attractive. There is water and electricity access, and roads are traced in the dirt.  The government is expected to give the go ahead for construction in December –  though, in my experience everything usually takes longer time than expected  – so it might be later, but it’s going to happen and then the land prices will go up. And then I hope to be starting the construction of an apartment hotel.   Also the dirt roads will be paved sooner or later which increases the value, as will turning the purchase certificate into  a title document.

So having cash upfront, patience and not getting ripped off, should be what it takes to make a good land deal.

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